Plastic bag bans and an added fee on the paper bag ordinance may result in retailers opting for paper bags, which may be of greater cost. Retaining the fees from paper bags will offset the purchasing cost. Retailers are also concerned about the loss of business to regions with no plastic bag bans. Current studies do not offer a substantial conclusion with some citing no sustained negative impact and the emergence of a new opportunity in the sale of reusable bags. A study by National Center for Policy Analysis cites negative economic impacts of the bans.
The studies on the long-term economic effect for consumer and cities have also shown varied results. Advocates of plastic bag bans argue that restricting the use of plastic bags would reduce environmental litter and protect the marine ecosystems. Studies show that HDPE plastic bags represent about 0.6% of litter in the world. They, therefore, represent only a minuscule proportion of the litter worldwide. Thus, this implies that plastic bag bans will only address an insignificant portion of the problem. Studies in San Francisco after the implementation of the ban on HDPE plastic bags in 2007 showed that the amount of litter did not decline.
The audit showed that the amount of plastic litter increased. The plastic bags that clog storm drains have also been shown to account for only 1% of the total litter in storm drains. Plastic bottles and other plastic items represented the higher percentage of the total litter clogging the storm drains. Bans on plastic bags, therefore, have a limited impact on the effect of litter on storm drains. Plastic bag bans also aim to reduce the impact of plastic on marine ecosystems.
Claims suggest that plastic litter finds its way into the oceans causing the death of marine life and birds. However, concrete evidence to support this claims does not exist. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration point out that little is known about the composition of the ocean floor and the so-called garbage patch forming in the middle is an unproven hypothesis. However, the flotsam has been shown to increase in the recent years because of the rise in plastic use.
The claim that plastic bag litter is a significant threat to marine life is not substantial. Discarded or abandoned fishing gear, on the other hand, have a grave impact on marine life and should be addressed. The plastic bag bans aimed to reduce the impact of plastic on marine ecosystems should be reevaluated to assess the effectiveness relative to their expected economic impacts.
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